The News Corp paywalls are coming!
As media mogul Rupert Murdoch begins to ease consumers into paying for newspaper content online, Bloomberg Businessweek's Matthew Campbell reports that he's offering a variety of "freebies" to sweeten the deal:
The Times, the London newspaper owned by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp., is offering free tickets to Toy Story 3 or a weekend at the Grosvenor Hotel in Dorset in an effort to persuade readers to pay for news online.
The newspaper this week began closing down its free website and will charge for access, mirroring a long-standing practice at the Financial Times and the Wall Street Journal. The New York Times Co. plans to do the same next year. Both concede the step will mean fewer readers. A drop in advertising revenue is forcing them to seek other, more steady, sources of income.
Murdoch's News Corp., which this week offered to buy the rest of U.K. pay-TV operator British Sky Broadcasting Plc for 7. billion pounds ($11.5 billion), is pushing a business model with clients paying for content as a driver of revenue growth. He's using that same strategy at the Times and the Sunday Times. The Times is now offering paying subscribers access to free events and discounted products through its 'Times+' service in an effort to build customer loyalty.
Still, any paywall strategy risks cutting newspapers off from an ecosystem of blogs and social media sites that was created partly by the availability of free content.
Rather than offering up movie tickets and other giveaways, I would have gone with offering consumers some straight-forward reporting based on the facts throughout all of his media outlets. Why stop with newspaper content? What about cable news? Anyone with basic cable in the U.S. pays for Fox News so why not start there? Rather than "Fair & Balanced" he could call it "Fact Checked, We Pinky Swear."
I'm not going to hold my breath… but I am going to hold onto my credit card.
Given Glenn Beck's passion for finding hidden connections -- no matter how trivial or tangential -- it failed him big time tonight on his Fox News show. He apparently did not realize, as Think Progress noted, that the Saudi prince he attacked tonight, Al-Waleed bin Talal, is the largest stakeholder in News Corp outside the Murdoch family. Beck referenced the aid Al-Waleed offered the United States after 9-11 and said, "You already sent us help. And you flew that help into the trade centers."
Beck was defending Israel over the flotilla situation by creating a hypothetical example of Saudi Arabia seeking to park a boat full of its citizens on the Hudson River in the days after 9-11. (Yes, it was as stupid as it sounds.) Beck said the U.S. would be "insane not to" act as Israel did toward the hypothetical Saudi Arabian boat. He then said:
Didn't we almost do that? Do you remember what happened after 9/11 with Rudy Giuliani?
Saudi Arabia came and said we want to help. This guy [Al-Waleed] came over and said I want to give you a $10 million check. Rudy Giuliani said you see that over there? I don't think we want your help. You already sent us help. And you flew that help into the trade centers.
The same prince later blamed policy for the attacks. Giuliani said take your check. We don't want your money.
Oh to read the internal memos flying around at News Corp right now...
So how does News Corp chief Rupert Murdoch plan on instituting the paywall for publications like the Wall Street Journal and New York Post? By getting your credit card number.
Joe Flint of the Los Angeles Times' Company Town blog reports (emphasis added):
News Corp. Chief Executive Rupert Murdoch, whose holdings include the Wall Street Journal and the New York Post, explained in an interview with his Fox Business Network how he plans to get people to pay for content online. It doesn't sound too complex.
Said Murdoch: "Simple. You turn them off. They've got to sign on. They give you their credit card number. And that's it. And then you e-mail them and say you're putting the price up or you're taking it down or whatever."
Just this week News Corp chief Rupert Murdoch admitted that his media empire had made some "big mistakes" since purchasing the once leading social network MySpace.
Here's another one of those "big mistakes."
If one were going to break big news on a social network, wouldn't it be a good idea to break said news on one's own struggling social network rather than promoting another rival network?
Not so, at least when it comes to News Corp's Wall Street Journal. The New York Observer's Media Mob blog reports:
When Times Square was evacuated earlier this afternoon, The Wall Street Journal "checked in" to the area on Foursquare with a news alert: "Portions of Times Square have been evacuated after a report of a suspicious package."
This was the first time the Journal has used FourSquare to break news, according to a release.
The Journal even put out a press release. A press release! It could have just as easily said, "Sorry MySpace, even your own sister-companies don't find you relevant."
Perhaps he's just to busy waging war on the New York Times, but News Corp chief Rupert Murdoch made it clear this week that his media empire has no interest in purchasing Washington Post Co.'s Newsweek.
Yahoo! News' Michael Calderone reports (emphasis added):
It's an interesting idea, but don't bet on it. A News Corp. spokesperson tells Yahoo! News that there are "no plans to bid" on Newsweek.
It's not too surprising that Murdoch isn't kicking the tires this time around, given that now he's dumping millions into the Journal, and last year unloaded a weekly magazine, The Weekly Standard, to fellow billionaire publisher Philip Anschutz. A source close to Anschutz tells Yahoo! News that the sports, entertainment, and media mogul isn't planning to bid on the beleaguered newsweekly, either.
This after AOL News contributor Paul Wachter suggested Murdoch bundle Newsweek with the Wall Street Journal:
If you're comparing the Times and the Journal, one significant advantage of the Times is its Sunday magazine supplement, offering longer, in-depth articles on a wide variety of subjects, stories akin to what you might find in The New Yorker or The Atlantic. In contrast, the Journal's WSJ Magazine offers fluffy stories on travel and fashion; it's completely dispensable. But if Murdoch bought Newsweek, he could tweak it into a hefty weekend magazine, one that would come with a recognizable brand. Plus, since the Weekend Journal is delivered on Saturdays, the reworked magazine would have the potential to scoop the Times'.
Perhaps rather than bundling Newsweek with the Journal, News Corp might be interested in bundling a detailed fact-check of the Journal.
While Newsweek's fate is far from clear, we can all breath a sigh of relief that Murdoch shows no interest in ruining yet another publication. After all, it's probably better to die a respectable death than it is to be propped up -- Weekend at Bernie's style -- by Murdoch's News Corp.
We've posted about the ongoing saga of News Corp chief Rupert Murdoch and MySpace several times before:
Well, now it appears Murdoch is coming clean -- perhaps just a little -- about News Corps' colossal failure of management since purchasing MySpace, the once leading social networking site.
Huffington Post's Bianca Bosker has more:
According to a tweet from PaidContent editor Robert Andrews during a NewsCorp earnings call earlier today, Murdoch fessed up to having "made some mistakes" with MySpace.
Andrews tweeted the following:
Last summer we brought you news that Rupert Murdoch -- chairman of News Corp, the parent company of Fox News -- was forced to pay big bucks to settle a hacking lawsuit. Romenesko summarized the sordid story:
...Rupert Murdoch's British newspaper subsidiary paid about $1.6 million to settle court cases involving allegations that its reporters worked with private investigators to hack into numerous public figures' cell phones. Murdoch tells Bloomberg News that's news to him. "If that had happened, I would know about it."
Well, Murdoch's media empire is shelling out big bucks for even more underhanded business practices -- this time centering on a Rugby team, the Melbourne Storm. The Independent reports:
Rugby club Melbourne Storm, which is owned by Murdoch's News Limited, has been at the centre of a major scandal, after players were found to have been receiving secret payments to stay at the club. This contravenes Australia's strict salary cap rules, and Murdoch has been fined a A$500,000. How many more fines can a magnate afford?
In addition to the fine, Murdoch's Melbourne Storm was stripped of it's "2007 and 2009 championship titles" as well as "three minor titles from 2006-08" according to a report from The Guardian.
What's a news executive to do when his newspapers are about to go behind a paywall and he needs to make sure the risky business decision isn't later revealed to be foolish?
Clamp down on transparency of course!
At least that's what News Corp chief Rupert Murdoch is doing.
Robert Andrews of PaidContent writes:
With nearly a month to go before News International raises its first paywall in June, both Times Online and Sun Online have stopped publishing their user numbers through the ABC in the UK.
March monthly figures for UK newspaper sites were issued Thursday - but both Murdoch sites are absent.
ABC confirmed to paidContent:UK that it is still auditing the publisher's traffic numbers - but it is keeping the figures private at News International's request and, at present, publication is not due to resume next month.
This means it will be hard to see exactly how many readers Times Online will lose when it starts charging £1 a day and £2 a week starting June.
The thinking goes a little something like this: If people know how many users currently visit your website and they find out how many users continue to visit your website once the paywall goes up, then they will be able to determine precisely how successful (or not) your decision to put up that paywall was in the first place.
Yesterday, the New York Post ran a piece by gossip columnist Cindy Adams under the headline "Sexual harassment: deal with it." Today, Women's Media Center president Jehmu Greene fired back in a statement given to the Huffington Post:
The author is blurring the lines between sexual harassment and sexual assault, when in fact one often leads to the other. There is no "right way" to handle sexual harassment or assault, but discouraging women from reporting those crimes is clearly archaic and deflects responsibility from the perpetrators. The under-reporting of sexual harassment and assault promotes an atmosphere of fear rather than of open dialogue about the issues. We should be focusing on the empowerment of women through programs like HollabackNYC which encourages women to identify their assailants, rather than regressing to a "just deal with it" attitude that disrespects and undermines the strides we have made in recent decades.
As Media Matters investigative reporter Joe Strupp noted Monday, "[t]he battle is on" between Rupert Murdoch's Wall Street Journal and the New York Times:
The Wall Street Journal launched its new 'Greater New York' section today with all the fanfare of a political campaign kick-off.
Taking over the grand ballroom of The Plaza Hotel in Manhattan, the Journal feted dozens of guests with a breakfast of bagels, quiche, coffee, Danish and other goodies. Large screens in the room promoted the new section's name, while top guns Les Hinton, CEO; Robert Thomson, managing editor; and Michael Rooney, chief revenue officer, headlined the event.
As the New York Observer's John Koblin writes in a post on the Media Mob blog, later Monday evening Murdoch downplayed the WSJ's ability to "kill" the Times at a Gotham Hall "launch party of The Journal's Greater New York section." The News Corp head also managed to get in a jab at Times publish Arthur Sulzberger Jr.'s expense:
With the war starting, we wondered what Mr. Murdoch thought about Times publisher's Arthur Sulzberger Jr.'s reaction to the whole dust-up involving what happened at Sir Martin Sorrell's apartment a few weeks ago, when Mr. Sulzberger and Journal editor Robert Thomson met for the first time. (Mr. Thomson described their conversation to us in an interview, and Mr. Sulzberger, through a spokesman, said Mr. Thomson lied.)
Mr. Murdoch's swatted the air disgustedly with his right hand, and said, "He should get a life."
The Times recently ran an ad campaign in which it provided stats about its dominance over The Journal with women readers in the New York area. What did Mr. Murdoch think?
"Bullshit," he said. "We have more women readers-total-than they do nationally."
Did he feel he could kill The New York Times?
"You can't kill The New York Times," he said. "It'll be here forever."
I guess if anyone should know about the ability to "kill" off a news outlet, it would be Murdoch. After all, this is the same News Corp chief that has presided over the decline of many newspapers and other entities like MySpace. As Newser.com's Michael Wolff noted in February, News Corp has "shouldered" the "losses" of the Times of London and the New York Post "for more than 30 years (representing, quite possibly, the largest aggregate loss of any media properties ever.)"
Like father's employee, like son?
Rupert Murdoch's son James reportedly crashed the London offices of The Independent because the paper had produced promotional ads stating, "Rupert Murdoch won't decide this election. You will."
The Guardian reports:
But [Rupert's] son James seems less ready to turn the other cheek, as it were. And this would seem to be the most plausible explanation for why Murdoch the younger, the chairman and chief executive News Corporation Europe and Asia, caused a media sensation on Wednesday by striding across the editorial floor at the Independent newspaper to berate its editor-in-chief, Simon Kelner.
In common with so many of the unpleasant episodes involving angry young men in modern London, it was a squall about reputation and respect. The newly relaunched Independent had produced a series of relatively innocuous promotional ads assuring readers: "Rupert Murdoch won't decide this election. You will."
There is no evidence that Murdoch senior has even seen the ads, but witnesses report that directly upon seeing Kelner, who was supervising the final production stages of that night's paper, Murdoch the younger began angry remonstrations. "What are you fucking playing at?" was his opening gambit.
The episode left experienced journalists shocked. "They strode in like a scene out of Dodge City," said one. "Murdoch scanned the room, you could almost hear him saying 'Where is he?'"
It looks like the younger Murdoch may be a big fan of Fox News' Bill O'Reilly who has become infamous over the years for ambushing those critical of the conservative network.
Think Progress notes that in discussing the story of six gay and lesbian service members who "handcuffed themselves to the White House fence" in protest of the President's slow movement on repealing Don't Ask, Don't Tell (DADT), Fox & Friends co-host had this to say (emphasis added):
I want to get your take on something that happened at the White House earlier this week, because, of course the message from the Obama administration is of course they will be the most transparent White House ever and there was this incident where some members of the military, at least dressed up like that, were handcuffing themselves in an area where typically protests happen and the police chased reporters away and basically said they could not cover the event that was happening.
It's just another example of Fox News' love/hate relationship with the LGBT community. Off-air the network offers workplace protections and health care benefits to LGBT employees and their spouses while on-air its hosts and contributors are dismissive and at times downright homophobic towards the community.
In fairness though, we shouldn't really hold Carlson accountable for such a statement. After all, she's not a real journalists, she's just "dressed up like" one.
Last week we posted a link to Fox News host Mike Huckabee's interview with College of New Jersey newsmagazine The Perspective in which the former Arkansas Governor drew "parallels between homosexuality" and drug use, incest, and polygamy while also defending his home state's ban on same-sex couples becoming adoptive or foster parents saying, "we should act in the best interest of the children, not in the seeming interest of the adults...children are not puppies."
Taking exception to the Fox News personality's spiteful homophobic rhetoric, the Food Network's Hearty Boys -- Steve McDonagh and Dan Smith -- have invited Huckabee over for dinner in their Chicago home.
On Monday, I wrote at length about Fox News' love/hate relationship with its LGBT "friends" noting that "a review of Fox News' employment practices however, reveals a network at odds with its own homophobic public image."
Perhaps if Huckabee breaks bread with McDonagh and Smith they can pick his brain about the very real dichotomy that exists at Fox News between its on-air and off-air treatment of LGBT people.
You may know me from Food Network. My partner, Dan Smith, and I are The Hearty Boys. We're Chicago caterers, restaurateurs, cookbook authors and most importantly, dads. Dan and I have been in a stable, monogamous, loving, positive, nurturing and healthy relationship for 13 years. We were blessed to adopt our son, Nate, at his birth 4 1/2 years ago.
Sir, your comments likening my parenting my son to adopting a pet are beyond hurtful and dangerous. My love, passion and commitment to Nate is not one iota different than what you have for John Mark, David and Sarah. Our son is loved and cared for just as much. He feels just as loved and cared for. He is a happy, well adjusted little guy whom I fiercely love.
Mr. Huckabee, I invite you to spend the evening with us at our home in Chicago next time you come through. You need to understand and see firsthand what a family like ours is like. We are no less a family than yours, and in fact, we are healthier and more stable than most.
Americans are no longer going to sit silent as our families are attacked. And even though I find your comments reprehensible and irresponsible, I will open my home to you and pray that we might help you better understand the damage you could inflict.
It's no secret that Fox News doesn't live up to its "fair and balanced" slogan, especially when one considers its coverage of the LGBT community. In fact, much of its coverage is openly antagonistic and downright homophobic. On issue after issue of importance, the network, its hosts, anchors, contributors, and guests offer up lies, misinformation, and right-wing spin that only further stigmatizes the gay and lesbian community.
The worst examples of Fox News coverage on LGBT issues can be found after the jump.
A review of Fox News' employment practices however, reveals a network at odds with its own homophobic public image. The dichotomy reminds me a bit of the recently outed state legislator with the staunchly anti-gay voting record.
Republican California State Senator Roy Ashburn was arrested for driving under the influence after reportedly leaving a Sacramento gay bar with an unidentified male passenger. Several days after circumstances surrounding his arrest and personal life spread in the media, Ashburn announced that he was gay and that he would continue to vote against the LGBT community because that's what the constituents from his conservative district would want.
Perhaps Fox News really is taking a page from Ashburn. Just as the California legislator has quietly acknowledged the fact that he's a gay man, News Corp. (and by extension Fox News) has quietly been offering workplace protections and benefits to its gay and lesbian employees.
According to an examination of the Human Rights Campaign's (HRC) employer database, News Corp. (Fox News' parent company) has had a policy protecting employees from discrimination based on sexual orientation since at least 2005 and has offered health care benefits to same-sex partners since at least 1999. Time Warner (CNN's parent company) and General Electric (NBC/MSNBC's parent company) offer not only these basic protections to gay and lesbian employees, they appear to go even further.
The HRC's Corporate Equality Index rates Time Warner and General Electric with 100 percent and 80 percent, respectively, while News Corp. has yet to complete the survey that HRC uses to establish its index. News Corp. would give us a better understanding of how it treats LGBT employees on a variety of other important issues by completing the survey, but the media company does deserve credit for at least offering some very basic protections and benefits for gay and lesbian employees.
Lack of a Corporate Equality Index rating notwithstanding, News Corp. has taken its support for LGBT employees a step further by sponsoring the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association (NLGJA) which describes itself on its website as "an organization of journalists, media professionals, educators and students working from within the news industry to foster fair and accurate coverage of LGBT issues." In fact, the program from the organization's annual conference last fall in Montréal included an ad from News Corp. stating: "The networks of Fox News honor NLGJA for its commitment to fair and balanced reporting. From your friends at Fox News Channel, Fox Business, News Corporation."
Reached for comment over email, NLGJA managing director Michael Tune said, "We try to have as expansive a network as possible in order to reach into every newsroom to accomplish our mission. News Corp. is a major employer of journalists nationwide, and NLGJA has had a very open and supportive dialog with them over the years regarding fair and accurate coverage of the LGBT community."
Tune added, "NLGJA's Rapid Response Task Force was created to respond to coverage of the LGBT community that is not fair and accurate. When we reach out to a news provider, it is often with the help of our member employees or other contacts within a company." He continued, "Often the relationship we have built with a company through its support of NLGJA makes it easier to work together."
I sought out Fox News' Brian Lewis, executive vice president of corporate communications, and Irena Briganti, senior vice president of media relations, last week for comment on the conflict between the network's public posturing against LGBT equality and its support for LGBT employees, but I've not yet received a response.
Just as Sen. Ashburn plans to continue his history of voting against the LGBT community to appease the homophobic conservative district he serves, News Corp. (and by extension Fox News) shows no signs of pulling back on the homophobic red meat it has fed its public -- the conservative audience that drives its ratings.
That ultimately is what's truly sad about News Corp.'s relationship with its LGBT "friends." The media company gives its employees decent protections and benefits while making the lives of the very same employees more difficult in the long-run by broadcasting homophobia and misinformation that harden anti-LGBT views and slow the movement for full equality under the law.
As an avid viewer of several NBC prime-time programs -- 30 Rock and The Office among them -- I've grown accustomed to the "green" themed programming that pops up each year on the network and other NBC Universal outlets as well.
The Wall Street Journal's Amy Chozick has an interesting piece out this week looking at the "eco-friendly" programming:
In just one week on NBC, the detectives on "Law and Order" investigated a cash-for-clunkers scam, a nurse on "Mercy" organized a group bike ride, Al Gore made a guest appearance on "30 Rock," and "The Office" turned Dwight Schrute into a cape-wearing superhero obsessed with recycling.
Coincidence? Hardly. NBC Universal planted these eco-friendly elements into scripted television shows to influence viewers and help sell ads.
Since fall 2007, network executives have been asking producers of almost every prime-time and daytime show to incorporate a green storyline at least once a year. The effort now takes place for a week in April and November. Starting April 19 this year, 40 NBC Universal outlets will feature some 100 hours of green-themed programming, including an episode of the Bravo reality series "Millionaire Matchmaker" in which a 39-year-old tycoon with an eco-friendly clothing line goes into a rage after his blind date orders red meat.
While the network says it tries to incorporate green programming throughout the year, the special emphasis twice a year creates an "event" that provides opportunities to advertisers, an NBC spokeswoman says. For instance, a Wal-Mart ad focusing on locally grown produce ran this past November after an episode of the medical drama "Trauma" in which emergency medic Rabbit rescues a window washer dangling precariously from a building; medics are alerted to the situation by a man sitting in his hybrid vehicle.
Behavior placement gives marketers extra incentive to advertise at a time when digital video recorders equip viewers with an unprecedented ability to skip commercials, says Jason Kanefsky, a media buyer at Havas's MPG. "You're not forcing your way into a program in any shape or form," he says. "You're just nodding your head at a program." ABC, CBS and FOX have plenty of product placement but haven't taken the step into behavior placement, network spokesmen say.
Armed with its own data showing consumers are wiling to spend more if a brand seems eco-friendly, NBC in 2007 launched "Green Week," the programming component of a larger "Green is Universal" corporate campaign. That effort brought in an estimated $20 million in advertising revenue from 20 sponsors, according to industry estimates. Many new clients, including the nutrition bar Soy Joy, came on board, NBC says. In April 2008, the network added another week of green-themed programming, when network logos go green and on-air promos tout NBC's support for the environment. But there are no obvious cues to alert viewers to the green emphasis in programming.
Chozick's story got me thinking. Wouldn't it be great if the Wall Street Journal spent 1,500 words (the length of the entire aforementioned piece) on a story delving into News Corps' efforts to go green and how its Fox News Channel spends considerable air-time attacking the science behind climate change and anything even vaguely eco-friendly?
Since the Journal is owned by News Corp, we shouldn't hold our breath. But just in case some Journal reporters happen to be reading (hello there!) I offer the following primer from a column I wrote in February:
Leading the anti-science idiocy is a host of conservative Fox News figures.
Over on the network's right-wing morning show, Fox & Friends, co-host Gretchen Carlson maintained her long-held passion for dismissing climate science, saying she wanted to talk about the "dichotomy" created by "big snowstorms" occurring while "the Obama administration [is] talking about creating a new federal office to study global warming." Co-host Steve Doocy added to the nonsense, claiming that it was "interesting, though, given the fact that the weather is so rotten right now, and people are going, 'How can there be global warming if it's snowing and it's fairly cold?' "
Interesting observation? Hardly. Idiocy worth ignoring? Absolutley.
Fox News' Sean Hannity dug in deep as well, adding to his extensive history of science denial. The conservative host found it absolutely hilarious that Commerce Secretary Gary Locke had "tunneled his way through two feet of snow in D.C." to announce the proposed creation of a new Climate Service office within the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The very next day, Hannity was back at it, saying, "Global warming, where are you? We want you back" while discussing recent winter storms.
Ironically, Rupert Murdoch -- CEO of News Corp., Fox News' parent company -- stated in 2007 that News Corp. "can set an example" and "reach our audiences" when it comes to fighting climate change, promising to make all of News Corp.'s operations carbon neutral by this year.
Perhaps it's time for Murdoch to call an all-staff meeting and discuss just how they are reaching their respective audiences on this issue, which he has said "poses clear, catastrophic threats."
There is a whole lot more where that comes from -- 247 research items, video/audio clips, blog posts and columns here at Media Matters alone.